Recasting Social Values in the Work of Virginia Woolf

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9780945636830: Recasting Social Values in the Work of Virginia Woolf
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As a novelist, literary critic, human being, and woman, Woolf perpetually faced a crisis in evaluation that was the product of her attempt to answer the haunting question: "What is my duty as a human being?" As a novelist, Woolf felt constant pressure to assess her own work and to determine to what extent she was able to define human duty in a significant way. As a critic, she was expected to review and evaluate the work of her contemporaries. As a woman, she came into continual conflict with the patriarchal value system of her society. And as a human being, living and writing through the devastations of World War I and the impending threat of World War II, she felt the urgency of determining different values for her society and of effecting social changes.
Woolf's idealistic hope was that "great art" embodied a truth that transcended the narrow limits of her cultural context and provided an authoritative guide to true values and real loyalties. However, the dilemma of determining which artworks are to be considered "great" and whose interpretation is to be considered "authoritative" left Woolf in a critical double bind. She attempts to define and explore her value system using two fabricated measuring standards, the public psychometer of great art and the private psychometer of instinct or taste. These often conflicting standards, however, lead her into a maze of circular reasoning and contradiction. In order to escape her cultural context, Woolf needed an Archimedes point, some distant position and objective perspective from which to view and judge the whole of society. Her two standards remain embroiled in the complicity that she recognizes in herself as the "daughter of an educated man."
In her reformist zeal, Woolf accompanied her critical projects simultaneously with an attempt at the re-formation of the novel in the hopes of creating an artistic vehicle that could escape its context and provide the artist-reformer with the distant, objective viewpoint needed for value determination. Her radical experimentation can therefore be seen as a unified project with her critical inquiries, as she was always seeking an avenue that would move the artist closer to a creative space where new truths and new values might manifest themselves.
This book traces Woolf's attempts to recast social values by opening a space in linguistic and textual forms in order to create the possibility for new perspectives. Unwilling to prescribe what the new values would be, Woolf experiments with the novel, which she considers the most elastic of art forms, hoping that the words themselves might take on a life and mind of their own, that truth beyond her own space-time continuum might emerge and offer hope for a new age.

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Judy S. Reese
Published by Susquehanna Univ Pr (1996)
ISBN 10: 0945636830 ISBN 13: 9780945636830
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Book Description Susquehanna Univ Pr, 1996. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0945636830

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